“Double, double toil and trouble… In the cauldron boil and bake... Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.” Who can forget that scene in Macbeth when the three witches hover around a roiling kettle surrounded by thunder and sinister intentions?
For some observers, a “double-double” pushed out of a sliding window to a driver in an awaiting vehicle has all the ominous implications of a hell broth. As a result, our municipal council is proposing a ban on all new drive-throughs to ensure the Shining Valley’s future is more environmentally friendly.
A restriction on additional drive-throughs was debated in the City of North Vancouver six years ago. It was rejected, despite one councillor’s declaration that the ban would have been a major step towards more sustainable urban design. On Vancouver Island, the city of Comox was steeped in its own bubbling cauldron five years ago when it passed a restrictive drive-through bylaw. In the lead-up to the controversial ruling, rancorous coalitions were formed and petitions were circulated. One agitated resident informed the Comox Valley Echo drive-throughs are “a blight on the landscape and if you need any proof, just drive down the main street of Parksville or Nanaimo.” Despite those apprehensions, during last year’s provincial election, drive-through voting was introduced in Comox for voters who had difficulty exiting their vehicles, or were leery of leaving pets unattended.
But let’s deal with the situation closer to home. In Squamish, a large number of residents commute considerable distances to earn a living. Out of necessity, they gravitate towards the comfort and time-saving convenience of drive-throughs. It is precisely the members of that ever-expanding, vehicle-dependent workforce who will benefit the least from the proposed drive-through freeze. And the much-ballyhooed “Squamish is open for business” slogan rings true only as long as prospective investors do not plan to maximize their profits by setting up a drive-through component.
Looking at the situation from another perspective, established companies, mainly the big fast food chains, will end up with a marketing monopoly while smaller start-ups will be restricted by the ban.
Critics of the planned bylaw also point out that it smacks of selective environmentalism. With no fewer than eight traffic lights from one end of town to the other, idling vehicles at red lights on Highway 99 contribute far more emissions than cars and trucks at local drive-throughs. And this coming summer, the stampede of vehicles from 35,000 Squamish Music Festival attendees could potentially generate more air pollution in three days than all our existing drive-through operations contribute over a much longer period.
Whatever spin we buy into, let’s see if the wheels stay on the drive-through ban-wagon after the final public meeting on this issue is held next week.